Slovakia: PV development in 2023 exceeds expectations

SAPI
18. 03. 2024



The year 2023 brought the long-awaited revitalization of renewable energy sources (RES), as evidenced by data provided to the Slovak Association of Photovoltaic Industry and RES (SAPI) by the distribution system operators (DSOs). According to SAPI, this is an important milestone in the development of the PV market, which has been stagnating for almost 10 years.

According to the data of regional DSOs on newly connected power plants in 2023, a total of 21,307 new photovoltaics with a total capacity of 266.9 MW were connected throughout Slovakia – approximately 200 MW more than the capacity connected in 2022. The largest increase of 11,202 plants with a total capacity of 107.8 MW was evidenced in western Slovakia (about 54% of both the number of installations and installed capacity), followed by central Slovakia with 6,028 new plants with a total capacity of 102.8 MW. The lowest number of connections was in eastern Slovakia, where 4,077 power plants were added with a capacity of 56.3 MW.

Considerable interest from households and companies

Small-scale residential PV was the largest contributor to the year-on-year increase, accounting for 92% of the total number of installations and 52% of the total increase in installed capacity. "Residential sources confirmed their dominance in Slovakia and surprised with an average installation capacity of 7.06 kW. The massive increases were supported by rising concerns regarding energy price increases, but also by the well-set-up support system - Green for Households II - which played a major role. In this respect, I must highlight the work of the Slovak Innovation and Energy Agency (SIEA) as well as the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic (MH SR)," says Ján Karaba, the director of SAPI.

Interesting figures can also be observed for local sources, which accounted for 39.75% of new installations. These are power plants producing electricity for on-site consumption. The activities of SIEA and the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic, which were translated into three subsidy calls for the construction of local sources for municipalities and enterprises, should be also appreciated. Local sources were added in the west of Slovakia (666), with an average installed capacity of 48.8 kW. The average installed capacity was noticeably higher in the east (65 KW) and in central Slovakia, where the average installed capacity was almost double compared to the west (89.1 kW).

Large projects are lagging behind

The last category is represented by commercial sources, i.e. power plants producing electricity meant directly for sale. These are the most interesting for Western European countries in terms of the development of the RES sector as well as in terms of new additions to installed capacity. "In contrast to residential and local sources, Slovakia lags far behind its European partners when it comes to commercial sources supplying electricity directly into the grid. The year 2023 was supposed to bring a recovery in this respect, but the 8.36% share of total new installed capacity is still very low, especially for ground installations. To be specific, a new capacity of 21 MW was added in central Slovakia, which is significantly higher than the new capacity in the west and the east. However, we are still talking about an average size of only 1 MW per power plant. Thus, large power plants with a capacity of over 5 MW have not yet been built and connected," Karaba says.

Slovakia has bounced back from the bottom

The figures from DSOs show a positive trend, according to the SAPI director. "After a decade of stagnation, it looks like the PV market has woken up again, but further work is needed to remove barriers to development and create a transparent and motivating environment for investors. We are seeing interest in renewables from both private investors and municipalities. However, problems are caused by lengthy permitting processes and the problematic use of the capacities released by the Slovak Electricity and Transmission System (SEPS) in April 2021. It is up to the government to create the conditions that will allow investors to translate their interest in RES into real investments – and we stand ready to provide any aid that would help in creating these conditions," explains the SAPI director.

SAPI has in no small part contributed to the country's renewed interest in RES and will continue to do so. Apart from extensive communication with key decision-makers and actors in the energy sector, including the governmental offices, the Association rigorously seeks to remove the existing barriers and raise motions that would allow the full participation of new actors. For example, the topic of community energy – as of now a rather alien concept in the Slovak energy market – is currently at the forefront of SAPI's focus.

Nevertheless, SAPI continues to be active in the ongoing issues that are yet to be resolved, including the still lagging development of wind energy and regularly discusses these topics at the annual SAPI Energy Conference. “We are happy that we manage to bring together well-known experts from the public and private sector, whether as speakers or as guests and brainstorm new ideas or discuss lingering issues. I believe that these conferences greatly contribute to the development and rise of RES in Slovakia as well,” says Karaba.

The Association also addresses the rising issue of PV safety. “The rise of photovoltaics inadvertently gave rise to new companies installing PVs and while that might sound like positive news, the unfortunate truth is that these companies are of varying quality. To mitigate the risks of incorrect installation and possible fire hazard, SAPI continues to provide training courses for RES installers,” says Karaba. Installers can undertake these courses to gain greater insights and new knowledge in RES technologies they will be working with, including photovoltaics. “We have also prepared Codex for PV installers where we focus on practices each installer should follow when communicating with customers, and have recently started granting our own awards for Recommended PV installers. By doing so, we seek to fully support those companies that adhere to good practices and safety standards and curb out those that might throw a bad light on photovoltaics,” concludes the director.

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